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THE POLISH SIGHTHOUND by MALGORZATA AND IZABELLA SZMURLO, CELERRIMUS TOP CHART POLSKI
The Polish Sighthound is a true relict of our hunting tradition and it has a long history. In the past Poland covered vast areas of steppes where Sighthounds could be used with great results. This tipe of hunting was very popular with the nobles andit is mentioned as in Gall Anonumus cronicle of the XII century. There are more descriptions written from the XVI century on, and it is interesting to note that in the XIX century Polish Sighthounds are often named as “ours” or “common”.
Selection was directed towards working qualities only. The pure beauty is of no value and so one has to pay attention to swiftness and dog’s ability to catch its prey as quoted after Ubysz (1880).
Hunting scenes were favoured by painters and Sighthounds appeared on many of the XIX century paintings. Interestingly, they showed great uniformity and there is no difference between dogs painted in the XVII century and those pictured two hundred years later.
Some years ago, Nina Turunen from Finland , having studied many Polish paintings , depicting Polish Sighthounds and comparing them with the modern ones, concluded that the type has not changed in last 200 years and the “oriental” appearance of Polish Sighthound has been its most important characteristic. Certainly, as the breed descends from the ancient Sighthounds of Asia, brought into Europe by migrating Scythians and Celts.
This oriental type is currently epitomised by the Saluki, which remains virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Recent studies of skull shape and size show the skull of the Saluki and the Polish Sighthound display distinct resemblance to each other. This may confirm our theory of close relation between these two breeds. In the XVII century there was a lot of trade between Poland, the Tartars, the Turks and the Armenians, horses and Sighthounds being frequently imported.
Sighthounds were to chase , catch and kill the prey and hunters were to follow their dogs on horse-back. Dogs were not expected to retrieve and so hunters had to follow them at greatspeed in extremely difficult terrain. Depending on the game dogs worked either in braces, or in trios, they consisted of dogs well matched in speed and temperament. They were kennelled together and had to like each other, as their successful work required lots of co-operation. In case of grand hunting events, there might have been as many as twenty braces or trios in the field.
Usually, before the prey had been spotted, Sighthounds were led on leash by the horses and set free when the chase started. There were some dogs, though, wich could be led free and released on command.
Hare was the most common prey and some dogs were able to catch it alone, those were the most valued and expensive ones. In winter fox hunting was a greatly favoured pastime. In this case foxes was chased in sledges, not on horseback.
However, it was it was wolf hunting that brought the greatest and most demanding entertainment and a trio or two braces of most skilled Sighthounds were able to catch them alive, the success depended also on properly trained horses.
Roe, bustard (a big bird, almost extinct nowadays) and saiga (species of antelope) were also popular game.
In the XIX century, due to economic conditions, the majority of big estates were parcelled out and hunting with Sighthounds became rare; so did the Sighthounds. There were still, however, several big estates, mainly in Ukraina, where the old tradition was preserved. In central Poland it was the Niemojewski estate near Kielce where hunting with Sighthounds continued till the world war II.
Wojniewicz (1938) left his vivid description. He also comments:
-Who hasn’t known the late Sergiusz Njemojewski , a great landlord and hunter, who loved and preserved tradition of hunting with Sighthounds…So popular during my childhood. It is almost extinct nowadays and there are just a few hunters who still keep dogs for this purpose…
The second world war which resulted in enormous damages had changed boundaries, and also early post-war years brought the breed to almost total extinction. Most dogs, originating from dispersed pre-war kennels, were kept by poachers in Southern Poland, mainly in Kielce area. Some were left within the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. Being poacher dogs, Polish Sighthounds were being exterminated by gamekeepers and police. Kept in cellars and attics, they were selected by their owners for speed and ability to catch hares, rabbit or fox, and bred pure for some 30 years.
Nevertheless, they would have probably extinct by now unless the initiative of the Warsaw – based terrier breeder, dr. Maciej Mroczkowski. On September 1972 a popular weekly magazine published his short article on Polish Sighthounds. It stressed the necessity of rescuing the breed, a true remainder of our glorious past and tradition. It was primarily due to his initiative that the first attempts of breed rescue started, and foundation stock brought from pre-war eastern territories, as well as purchased from poachers, though not without difficulty.
Zwiazek Kynologiczny w Polsce founded Provisional Stud Books for Polish Sighthounds in 1981.
According to current law, hunting with Sighthounds is illegal. So as natural abilities of the breed are not lost, the Club runs several coursing events every year. Rag is used instead of a hare a course runs in a natural terrain. Not only are speeds and style judged, but also proper co-operation between dogs.
Watching their work is really exciting. For 13 years now the club has also organised the annual presentation on St. Hubert Day. The atmosphere of traditional hunting events is re-created almost to perfection, participants being dressed in traditional costumes. Apart from coursing shows are also presented. Our dogs have featured in many historical films.
The Polish Sighthound is a dog of great size, strength and personality. Bred for hunting in open areas its reactions must be extremely quick. This feature may be quite troublesome to modern owners of Polish Sighthounds – dogs will react to anything that moves suddenly chasingat great speed to kill even if it is only a piece of paper in the wind. However, these features remain so important that must be preserved.
A Polish Sighthound is highly devoted to its owner and can be an excellent companion, as well a property guard. It needs plenty of exercise and training, regardless if kept indoor or out. It is somewhat reserved towards strangers and – when not willing to be approached- it may even react with growl or snap.
It is relatively easy train, but cannot be expected to be blindly obedient: hates violence and uneven behaviour. Males have a tendency to social dominance. To sum up, it is definitely not a breed for everybody. It needs an experienced owner , good food and exercise and must not be permanently kennelled – this will inevitably result in behavioural problems.
The standard was registered with Fci in 1989 and the breed was fully recognized in 2000. Currently the breed is known not only in Poland, but also in many European countries, Canada and Usa.
Description of the Polish Sighthound
The Polish Sighthound is a strong – minded dog of great strength and stamina and impressive size. Males are distinctly bigger and stronger than females. Its head is long and narrow and its profile is often roman-nosed. Somewhat oriental expression and sharp gaze are typical of this breed.
Neck should be long, carried lower than Greyhound’s neck, but definitely higher than Borzoi’s neck.
Length of body is slightly, but distinctly greater than its length. Topline shows pronounced withers and nice arch over loins. Flanks are well tucked up. Chest capacious and long, with long brisket and ribs well laid back. Legs long and well boned, with well developed , dry muscles. Hindquarters are different to those of a Greyhound – they show neither as much turn of stifles nor are set wide apart. Tail long, thick at its base, carried low in repose, with distinct hook or full ring. In action it is carried high: however, its base cannot be placed above topline.
Coat is hard, never very short or sleek or long and silky. Some feathering on lower side of tail and typical breeches.
All colours and their combinations are equally permitted.
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